Love it or not — hiring remote teams has now become the global norm. Accelerated by the extended global pandemic, analysts at Global Workplace Analytics reported that there’s been a 173% increase in remote work since 2005. Having experienced the highs and lows of working from home, many intend never to return to the office and if they must, it’ll be part of a hybrid, flexible work arrangement. So, with this rapid shift, how can employers optimise the way they hire and manage these geographically dispersed teams?
The rapid pivot to hiring people at arm’s length has been easier on some HR managers than others. For those that built their careers thriving on the energy of face-to-face interviews and assessment centres, the new hiring reality has left many with a hollow, empty feeling. For others, the switch to remote hiring has freed-up more time, enabling them to handle a greater number of applicants. Whether you really like this remote approach or not — people have been rolling up their sleeves to make the best of this fundamental shift. Here’s some of the things you must think about as you continue the transition.
1. Making communication work well across the whole recruitment process
The balance of power has shifted in recent months, with fierce competition for some of the best talent. Don’t let a poor application process put people off or lower you on their application wish-list. People know that companies receive hundreds of applications and can’t send a personal response for every role they applied for. However, it’s a basic ask these days that people receive professional communications in a timely and systematic manner. Like a friendly acknowledgement that says “we’ve received your application.” Think about the key touch points that will impress people — such as a self-service portal (part of your recruitment system) where people can apply, upload relevant documents and even book a slot for an online interview. The digitally savvy will see right through a sloppy and inconsistent hiring process. So think about how your HR onboarding software can solve this.
2. Make interviews work for both the interviewer and interviewee
Let candidates know well ahead of time exactly which video meeting tool they’ll need to use. These tools always seem to work so well, until you’re really counting on them. Let candidates download the right tool, apply any software-updates and test their microphone and speakers. Sounds obvious? — people have problems with this every single day. Send preparation guidance and resources ahead of time so they know exactly how the meeting will be structured, any responses that need to be prepared ahead of time (and how many people will actually be on the interview call). Give both interviewers and interviewees a pre-interview checklist that will keep things straightforward and simple for all parties.
3. Set expectations straight on what remote or hybrid working means for your organisation
Given the cost you’ll incur to onboard and recruit new members of staff, make everything clear upfront, to avoid any early dropouts from your new intake. Be absolutely clear about the terms of employment and your expectations around flexible, hybrid or remote working. Will the role be fully remote? — and with fixed working hours? How many days will people need come into the office per month? And will there be a requirement to travel to conferences or other off-site events? With the remote working shift, people have built new life schedules and routines around childcare, wellness and even exercise. Just be upfront and transparent from the beginning, preventing any problems further down the time. Of course, all employment relationships require some flexibility on both sides, so don’t forget to word this in contracts of employment.
4. Accelerate the shortlisting process
Modern day cloud based applicant tracking systems help you to sift through, select and then compare the most appropriate candidates. One of the best ways to achieve an accurate shortlist is to include several screening questions in the application, so you can quickly filter down to those with the best fit for the role. This isn’t unique to hiring for remote roles of course. However, with the limited amount of time you’ll have available for initial calls with candidates and online video interviews, you’ll want to ensure that only the most qualified and best fit people get to that stage.
5. Build a super-strong employer brand
In many industries, a shortlisting for a role meant a trip to the company’s shiny and glitzy head office. They’d walk into your inspiring lobby, soaking up the culture and purpose of your organisation like a sponge. Whilst sipping on a freshly brewed Italian espresso, they’d mingle and socialise with other applicants, looking at all your shiny awards in the cabinet. With a switch to an all-virtual hiring process - all of that exciting gloss has vanished. Now, you need to showcase your brand, workplace, and culture virtually. Do this by curating a dedicated recruitment section on your website. Share videos, photos and employee testimonials that really bring your organisation to life.
So, the hiring process is done — and you’ve set a date. In a remote-first world, how are you going to deliver an onboarding to remember when you might not even meet them in the real world before they begin? Here’s some ideas on how to keep the energy flowing:
6. Hold Virtual Intake Meetings
You may have been one of the companies that successfully brought new starters together and socialised them, giving them the warmest of welcomes into the organisation. These sessions often included a team lunch, an introduction to various departments and even a personal address from the CEO. Whilst you might not be able to hand-pick items from the same buffet table, you can still inspire and welcome new starters in a virtual intake meeting. The snacks: send them ahead of time, so you can all make a toast (with a bottle of alcohol free Kombucha). Make the event feel like something special. If you can afford it, post out treats and company swag ahead of time. Bring in special guests; the CEO, existing employees and even company mascots or ambassadors can appear as special guests online. Don’t miss the opportunity to make onboarding an inspiring one. Your employee onboarding system can help to diarise and automate the invitations to these events.
7. Set up effective communications channels and agree the rules of engagement
You’d be quite unique these days if you weren’t using some kind of internal chat and communications tool like Microsoft Teams, Slack or similar. They do take a bit of getting used to. The idea is, you have different channels dedicated to lots of different departments or work streams. This keeps conversations in one place; instead of there being hundreds of emails that go back and forth. Some people love them. Some people hate them. They’ve been so widely adopted; it looks like they are here to stay. Whichever way you choose to communicate, agree ‘rules of engagement.' You can either have a written down set of guidelines or an informal etiquette. Are people allowed to share messages using these tools at any time of the day and across time-zones? Should people feel compelled to reply instantly, or is it perfectly acceptable to set yourself as ‘away’ — and tell others that you’re ‘in the zone’ and busy? There isn’t a once size fits all rule here; what’s just right for one team might be interruption hell for another. Just make a decision as a team — rather than trying to lay down a ruler’s law. Good luck.
8. Use a good online project management tool
There’s such a great array of project management tools out there these days — and their bells and whistles (and integrations to other apps) are astonishing. When people worked in the open-plan office close to each other, they overheard each other’s chit-chat and came together for daily stand-ups. It wasn’t too hard to keep each other briefed on progress. Now a project can be split across people all over the world. The design’s being done in New Zealand. The commercials in Australia. The fabrication in Indonesia. Reliant on email alone, things can quickly go off-track and lead to a state of confusion. Online project management tools give everyone a single source of truth and progress — sharing objectives, progress against the plan and key milestones. These tools allow you to display work in various ways — from Kanban boards, to Gantt-charts and even calendars. Tasks can be broken down into sub-tasks and collaborators can add notes, visuals and even tag their colleagues. When you’re spread in multiple locations, working on multiple projects and in different time zones, one of these tools is going to help your people keep their sanity.
9. Be flexible and don’t micromanage
When you’re managing a remote team, it can be so tempting to micromanage. You wouldn’t stand over someone’s shoulder in the office, so actually, there’s no reason to do it when people are working remotely. It can feel odd as a manager when you can’t see the team busy at work. Holding daily, or bi-weekly stand-ups is a great idea, allowing people to share their progress and show the tangible results that are being produced. Strike a balance; there doesn’t need to be radio silence between you and your people. Communicate little and often — and show that your ‘virtual door’ is always open in case people have questions, need support or even some of your inspiration. It might pay to think more about output rather than specifying the exact way a job is done. Sure — some industries have very strict ‘standard operating procedures’ — but for a lot of tasks, some people will prefer to do them early-doors, and others into-the-evening as night owls.
10. Get together for some fun
Don’t let the workplace fun and camaraderie stagnate! Make time once a month (or more often) to have a team bonding session. It could be a quiz, a bake-a-long or even just a chit-chat about a series you’ve all been watching. Let people know it’s OK to let off some steam. If you no longer provide food and treats in the office, try and re-deploy that budget by sending people small treats that keep them feeling thought-about, valued and special.
It’s taken all of us time to adjust to this new, different and distanced way of working. With a few adaptations and strategies, there’s a way to make it work for you.